FORT LEWIS, Wash. (Army News Service, June 16, 2008) - Saturday was an important day - the Army's 233rd birthday. I hope Soldiers care.

It would be a shame if they didn't.

This is a time to pause and reflect with pride on the remarkable organization we all - Soldiers, Civilian employees, Family members - are part of. For longer than our nation has existed, the Army has embodied what it means to be American.

More than any institution, the Army is based on ideals. This isn't just a job. All of us are part of an organization that has succeeded because it knew what it stood for - whether those ideals were expressed as "Duty, Honor, Country," or as seven core values. Since 1775, those have been the bedrock principles that have taken Soldiers from every walk of life and molded them to represent the best America has to offer.

We often apply sports terms to the Army. We talk about being part of a team. Army speechwriters love to quote great coaches from the past. But those comparisons don't tell the whole story.

It is a matter of who you are, not just what you do. Sports teams practice and compete together, but the Army calls for much more. You play sports, but you ARE a Soldier.

The Army is more like a family than an athletic team. Just as American families come from all over the world, the Army Family tree has roots and branches that encompass all the diversity of our nation.

The Army has a few shameful pages in its past, but so do most families. Just as many families can look back at a distant uncle or cousin who committed a murder or was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, we have had our Sand Creek massacres and our My Lais. But those have been aberrations, dark chapters that stand out for their contrast to the norm.

They are outweighed by the countless acts of generosity and sacrifice that represent the real nature of the American Soldier.

Just like a family, we build up a library of stories we like to remember. All Soldiers and their loved ones can look at surprising, strange and outright bizarre things they have seen during their service. They are the topics of war stories, and the sources of smiles and belly laughs for years, whenever old comrades gather together - just like the stories that circulate at every family reunion.

And, just like a family, the Army always comes to the help of its members when tragedy happens. I have lost track of the numerous accounts I have heard over the years of the support Soldiers have shown to the loved ones of those who died in our nation's service.
Finally, just as in a family, it is painful to see members, who should know better, behave in a way that dishonors or shows a lack of respect for all the Army has done.

Every Soldier who fakes an injury to go to sick call, every leader who places career before the welfare of subordinates, every worker who does less than his best and smirks, "Good enough for government work," disrespects and insults the many around him who take their oaths and duty seriously.

That's why the Army birthday is important. That's why we should all remember the occasion.
After all, we're part of the Family.

(David W. Kuhns Sr. is editor of the Fort Lewis' "Northwest Guardian.")